By Bob, Briony, and Lizzy
Here at the Misery Farm feel like we should encourage our audience to spread your dice and try playing games in some new settings, or even (god forbid) with some new people. In this sporadic mini-series, we take to the wide open road to review board game events all over the world. But mostly in pubs in the south of England.
A sick Bob is not a happy Bob. There’s a lot of pissing and moaning and complaining and ignoring good advice. She firmly believes that all you need to get well quickly is a regime of Hot Toddies and vitamin C. So, predictably, when our generic white male gaming buddy Andy invited Bob to Marshals on a chilly Monday night for an evening of board games and Tex-Mex she jumped at the chance. We say ‘jumped’ we mean ‘agreed before really thinking about what this would require’ (leaving the house, dressing like a proper adult, putting on pants). Seeing her hesitation Andy sent Bob the picture on the right and, unable to refuse this level of peer pressure, she blew her nose and made him promise to buy her a beer. For its medicinal properties, obvi.
Marshals is an American blues sports bar-type place in Southampton which Bob can’t decide if she loves or… eh. Big screen TVs are splashed around the restaurant constantly show worldwide sports channels, but this isn’t terribly annoying as they’re usually set to silent and occasionally show late-night WWF wrestling. The Misery Farm would like to say that they don’t get super excited when the Undertaker shows up, but that would be a lie. A complete and utter lie.
Marshal’s selection of spirits is frankly, inspiring. Shelves upon shelves of very fine whiskies, bourbons, and rums. They’ve got about 8 flavours of bitters alone. And such cocktails. They’re even perfectly happy to go off-menu or invent you a cocktail based on what you like, though unfortunately they haven’t the cloves on hand to make the tequila Hot Toddy of Bob’s dreams.
As a bonus, most of the male bar staff can all be rated on a scale of Hipster to Pirate. Beards and earrings for all!
Board games and Tex-Mex is a strange thing to combine. In fact, in many ways it’s the worst-possible combination of food and game. There aren’t many foods that lend themselves to the clean fingers and lack of drip required to keep laminated cardboard in pristine condition (sushi, pretzels, and boiled sweets being notable exceptions). Luckily Bob isn’t particularly precious about the condition of her games and cheerfully gestures for the waitress to plunk enormous plates of nachos unceremoniously among the notes and maps of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective.
Also on offer: medicinal margaritas. The bartender (approximately well-scrubbed Russell Brand on the Hipster-Pirate scale) espouses the virtues of both tequila and lime as cure-alls. Unfortunately he hasn’t factored in Bob’s staggering capabilities for encyclopaedic knowledge about random bullshit. He patiently listens while a twenty-something woman wrapped in a blanket adenoidally tells him about the massively-reduced Vitamin C content of limes compared to lemons, and how the nominative confusion between the two led to the re-emergence of scurvy among such prominent explorers as Scott of the Antarctic in the 19th. Then he makes a lime margarita anyway because limes taste better than lemons. It’s delicious.
Thus fortified, they turn to the board games portion of the evening in earnest. There are two other groups of board gamers in the bar this evening, but it’s hardly packed to the rafters with nerds. Bob embarrasses the GWMs by bothering a large group to ask what they’re playing (this is something that the Misery Farm has become particularly used to – we enjoy simply appearing whenever a boardgame is being played, like those pretty but useless patterned D10s that everybody’s got at least one of). Eventually Bob is prised away for more Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (our regular hit of addictive self-flagellation) and Shinobi WAT-AAH for its sheer joy.
Sherlock is, as ever, deeply frustrating and intriguing in equal measure. It’s not really a ‘game’ as much as it is a murder mystery which punishes you for needing to read too much of it before figuring out the entire plot and who did the dirty deed. Mr Holmes is always several steps ahead of you and will drop condescending hints, but you can outshine him at detecting by solving side quests. This game has the power to annoy the crap out of you but you’ll still want to play the next case immediately. It is, unfortunately, hard to find, expensive, and translated from French, which leads to masses of typos which are severe enough to cause irritation, if not full in-game confusion (a notable exception being ‘spirit’ mis-spelled as ‘spirbt’ and causing terrible trouble in case five). A stuffy head and snotty nose do not make this game any easier, and we give up unusually early; allowing Sherlock to patronisingly explain the ‘simple’ case to us.
Shinobi on the other hand is always fun. Contradictory to our official review, Shinobi actually pairs perfectly well with a heady single-malt (nothing peaty or smoky please, Bob doesn’t like drinking old-man-sofa smell). Andy and Mike for some reason bring their C-game so Bob wins each round and, convincingly, the game.
Bob’s not sure how regular of a Miserable event this should be, as it’s not really an ‘event’ as much as it is an evening in a bar. Not that we’re in any way averse to those, it’s just that Marshals is a bit on the pricy side to make a regular haunt. Is it a fun way to spend an evening? Yes. Is it better than ordering Chinese takeaway to your local and playing board games there? Hmmm… But at least Bob got out of the house, and next time, maybe even Briony and Lizzy will venture forth and try new events too.
Images © Cadbury’s, WWF Wrestling, and Marshals Bar (in that order).
Photos © TheMiseryFarm.com